ERC starting grant success for two Crick group leaders

Naomi Moris and Ben Schumann.

Naomi Moris (left) and Ben Schumann (right)

Francis Crick Institute group leaders Naomi Moris and Ben Schumann have been awarded European Research Council (ERC) grants for projects that will provide new insights into cell biology and early development. 

Naomi and Ben have each received an ERC Starting Grant, with a value of €1.5 million over five years. Starting Grants are highly prestigious and competitive awards for researchers who have a promising scientific track record and an excellent research proposal. 

This round of funding attracted nearly 3000 proposals, with a total of 400 researchers securing grants worth €636 million. Of these projects, 70 have been awarded to researchers in the UK.

While their projects have been successfully selected for funding by the ERC, as the UK is not currently associated with Horizon Europe the funding will be provided by UKRI, unless a deal for re-association with Horizon is agreed.  

Paul Nurse, director at the Crick, says: “Awards like this are a reminder of the value of UK-EU scientific collaboration and high-quality grant assessment and funding. While the back-up funding being provided by UKRI is very helpful we urge the UK government to prioritise full association with Horizon Europe, so that scientists in the UK can continue to access this world class granting mechanism that helps support valuable and ambitious projects.”

Developing chemical tools to unravel the secrets of glycans

Ben Schumann, group leader of the chemical glycobiology laboratory, has received a grant to study glycans, carbohydrate-based molecules that carry out various roles vital to cell survival. In this project, Ben and his team will develop chemical tools to directly image and map how glycans are added to proteins to create glycoproteins, in living cells. 

Ben says, “This process, called glycosylation, cannot be predicted from an organism’s genetics, and understanding how it works is an unmet need in biology. Using chemical tools alongside mass spectrometry and cutting-edge microscopy techniques, we hope to reveal the details of glycosylation, providing insight into a major essential process in cell biology.”

Creating gonads from 3D stem-cell models 

In her project, Naomi Moris, group leader at the Crick, will use gastruloids, 3D models of stem cells that mirror early mouse embryos, to study the biology of germ cells and how they develop towards gametes - sperm and eggs.

Naomi says, “Stem cell-based embryo-like models have revolutionised the biologist’s toolbox, providing a suite of powerful models of early mammalian development. By using bioengineering principles, we’ll be adding to this toolbox and paving the way to answer more questions about development, like identifying the cells that go on to establish gametes and how these cells might migrate in the embryo.” 

Sign up for our newsletters

Join our mailing lists to receive updates about our latest research and to hear about our free public events and exhibitions.  If you would like to find out more about how we manage your personal information please see our privacy policy.